As a part of a class-wide cross curricular study of the timeline of American immigration, the entire junior class recently participated in a field trip to Angel Island, located near San Francisco. Now a California State Park, Angel Island served as a “holding place” in the early 1900s for primarily Chinese immigrants after strict immigration laws severely restricted them from entering the United States. It functioned as both an immigration and deportation facility, at which some 175,000 Chinese and about 60,000 Japanese immigrants were detained, generally from two weeks to six months, before being allowed to enter the United States.The barracks were originally slated for demolition, but a park ranger discovered poems carved into the walls of the rooms by the immigrants who had stayed there. The station was turned into a state park to preseve the poems as an important part of history.
Students were able to see the immigration station, the barracks where the immigrants were housed (including the poetry), and the courtyard for the entire station. After enjoying the scenery in a 1 mile walk to the immigration station, students participated in rotations to cover the whole island: one to explore the United States’ history with immigration with the help of a Facing History representative, another to explore the barracks, and another to reflect on the architecture and redesigned modern aspects of the courtyard. "Seeing the barracks and the poems on the wall is so different from reading about these things in a book or looking at photos," shared one student.
Through this experience, juniors found new knowledge to inform their discussion around inclusion and exclusion, a key theme for the year.